Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Pip is a young boy living with his sister, the mean Mrs Joe, and her husband, the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, in the marshlands of Kent. His sister has never liked him, and is always reminding him of how she “raised him by hand”, and how grateful he should be about this.  Pip is sitting by his parents’  gravestones one night when an escaped convict grabs him and commands him to bring him food and a file for his leg irons. Pip obeys, but the convict is captured anyway. Soon afterwards Pip is taken by his pompous Uncle Pumblechook, to play at Satis House, owned by the mad Miss Haversham who has been driven  crazy after being left at the altar on her wedding day. She stays in her wedding dress all the time and even keeps all the clocks stopped at the time she heard of her lover’s betrayal; twenty minutes to nine. During his visit, he meets the beautiful Estella, who treats him coldly, but nevertheless he falls instantly in love with her. Pip dreams of becoming a wealthy gentleman so he may marry her, and even hopes Miss Haversham will help him do that, but his dreams are crushed when she apprentices him to  Joe Gargery, the blacksmith. Pip works unhappily, until one day a lawyer named Jaggers appears to tell Pip some brilliant news; he has been given a large fortune by an anonymous benefactor and is to leave for London to begin his education immediately. Pip guesses it must be Miss Haversham, and in London, he befriends a young gentleman named Herbert Pocket, and spends his days being tutored by Herbert’s father, Matthew, until one night the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, breaks into Pip’s room to tell him something life changing… What did he say? Why has he come back? And will Pip and Estela ever be together? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

At first, when I picked up this book, I thought it would be very dull and hard to understand, but by the time I had got into it I actually really enjoyed it! It is definitely a longer read, and some of the language is obviously hard to understand as it is an old book, but something I had really not anticipated was how exciting or how much of a story this book has. I really liked how all the loose ends were tied up in the final few chapters, apart from one or two, and all the twists there were as you learned more abut the characters and their acquaintances. I would probably recommend it to ages 12+, as it is quite difficult, but it is still a good story so by all means try it or read an abridged version if you are younger (or older). I think this was a great book, and although it was hard to understand at times it had a great storyline, and was exciting, scary, and even funny!
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Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Georges is a boy in 7th grade, living in Brooklyn. The ‘s’ in his name has got him a lot of unwanted attention at school, his mum works night shifts so they never see each other, and his family has just moved house, leaving the home Georges has known all his life behind. Life seems to just keep getting worse, until he finds a note in the basement about a “Spy Club Meeting.” He meets Safer, a boy living upstairs who is intent on finding out what the mysterious Mr X is up to, and his little sister Candy, and soon Georges is swept up into a world of lies and spying, all controlled by Safer.  As the bullying at school gets worse, Georges begins to think. Just how far is far enough? Are Safer’s demands, and the bullying at school, becoming too much? Helped with some logical reasoning from Candy, Georges decides that the bullying must come to end, and starts making his own rules…

This was a great book, which had loads of twists and turns that were completely unexpected. I absolutely loved the ending, but I won’t reveal anything because what made it great was the element of the unknown… Like “A Street Cat Named Bob” the cover was quite misleading, and I ended up reading a completely different type of story to the kind I had expected, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I would recommend this book to ages 9-12, as a quite short but nonetheless brilliant read!

Spies in Disguise: Boy in Tights by Kate Scott

Joe is just an ordinary boy, until he finds out his parents are spies, and it turns his whole world upside down! The whole adventure starts with an exhilarating car chase, which gets Joe feeling pretty excited. When his parents tell him he has to move house and completely change his life, he is a little disappointed, but now he’s going to be a spy, what could be better? There is a catch, though. Joe is going to have to be…

A girl.

Yes, a girl. And that’s where things start to fall to pieces, as Joe has absolutely no idea, and no interest, in anything girly whatsoever. Worse still, is the horrible frilly concoction of a dress his dad has bought for him to wear, which makes him the laughing stock of the school. Just as it seems that nothing can get any worse, Joe overhears a suspicious phone call and suddenly he’s doing some spying of his own, borrowing gadgets from his parents’ large supply and figuring out this little mystery…

Will Joe catch the bad guy? Or is he just not cut out to be a spy? You’ll have to find out!

I really enjoyed this book, as it was full of hilarious moments and twists and turns in the plot. The storyline was really interesting, including some of those really cringe-worthy moments and some bits that were simply just hysterically funny, and although it was maybe a little easy for me, I still loved it as a short, funny book! One of the things I most enjoyed about it could be that it was very accessible for younger readers, but it was still enjoyable for anyone to read. I would recommend it to ages 7-10 but anyone can read it and will love it, I guarantee.

Thank you SO much to Kate Scott at Piccadilly Press who so kindly sent me a copy, the sequel for, for anyone interested, is out soon!

A Horse for Angel by Sarah Lean

Nell is really looking forward to spending the Easter holidays at her grandma’s house -no boring after-school activities just so her mum doesn’t have to look after her – but a last minute change of plan sends her off to stay with an aunt she barely knows and two small cousins who live on a remote farm. Before she goes though, she finds something her father made, before he ran off to America. Nell takes it with her to her Aunt’s in a satchel, but day she arrives there she is knocked over by a girl on a black horse and the satchel is taken. To get it back, she must befriend the mysterious girl on the black horse, as more things go missing and the girl’s history becomes clearer…

This is a really good book, because when you think you know exactly what’s happening, you turn out to be completely wrong! It was a little bit easy for me, but I would definitely recommend it to ages 8-9. All in all, a brilliant book, and generously donated to me by HarperCollins.

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Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Three sisters, each completely different from the others. Pauline longs to act, Petrova is obsessed with motor cars and aeroplanes, and Posy loves to dance.

When Great-Uncle-Matthew (Gum for short) leaves home with only a note that says he has left enough money for five years in the bank, his great-niece Sylvia doesn’t know what to do. She sends Gum’s three adopted daughters to school for a while, and everything is fine. Then, when Sylvia finds the money Gum left is running out, she has to take the children away from school and take in boarders. Sylvia teaches the children, but she doesn’t teach very well and when two doctors ( who have degrees in literature and arithmetic) move in as boarders, they offer to teach the children for free. Also, a former ballerina moves in as a boarder, and tells Sylvia that the dancing school she teaches at will take the children for free, as long as when the girls have their licences, they give 10% of their earnings to the school. Sylvia immediately agrees.

When Pauline is old enough to get her first licence, she is tried for the part of Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”. She gets the part and is incredibly pleased.

After Pauline has acted in several plays, she is put in a movie. When she goes to the premiere of the film, there are lots of people jostling in a line, waiting to get Pauline’s autograph.She signs until her hand aches, then Nana (the children’s nurse) finds a policeman who takes them home.

As you can see this book is all about three sisters who are obsessed with dance and acting (and motor cars!). I won’t tell you any more of the plot, but you get the idea. It is one of a number by the same author e.g.Tennis shoes, White Boots (about skating) and so on.

I really enjoyed this book, but I must admit it got a little bit tiresome towards the end. I felt that it slightly turned out a bit too perfectly, but if you like books with lovely endings, this is the one for you. (Maybe the language was a bit dated, or I could just be being stupid, but does anyone know what paliasses are? Please comment and tell me if you know and someone hasn’t already!) It was written in 1936, so it’s quite an old story, therefore I couldn’t quite get to grips with how much shillings and pounds were worth (as in, if a pound was loads of money or a modest amount).

The edition I read was a full colour, beautifully published book made by the Folio Society, and was given to me, very generously, as a gift. I would just like to say thank you  to the Folio Society for the lovely book and if I had judged that book by its cover, and given it a rating, it would have 10/10!